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Is Travis Etienne the type of running back the Steelers need to elevate their offense?

For teams who are looking for a running back in the 2021 NFL Draft, Travis Etienne is a name you should be familiar with.

CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of many NFL organizations who could be looking at a running back in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. However, unlike the other franchises who are looking to add to their current quarterback depth chart, the Steelers possess the 24th overall pick.

The question isn’t whether a running back will be available at No. 24, but if there is a running back who is worthy of a first round pick. Last week I talked about quarterbacks, both top tier and mid tier signal callers, and now we dive into the running backs.

After breaking down Javonte Williams of North Carolina, it is time to discuss another back, with a tremendous skill set, who could be on the Steelers’ radar heading into the draft. That would be none other than Clemson’s Travis Etienne.

Etienne, who just ran a 4.40 40-yard dash at Clemson’s Pro Day, is someone Steelers fans have been talking about for quite a long time.

Etienne has done it all at Clemson, and has re-written the ACC record books for running backs. But this doesn’t mean he is a great fit for the Steelers, or if he would ever be considered a first round option.

We all know the Steelers will want to add to their running back room, but will it be in the draft, or via Free Agency? As of right now, the Steelers could be poised to take a running back, but I don’t think they would have to, or should, take Etienne in the first round.

Don’t listen to me, or anyone else, form your own opinion on Etienne. I plan on doing this for other prospects as the draft approaches. If there is a specific player you’d like to see covered, simply let me know and I’ll be glad to put it together!

Let us know your thoughts on Etienne in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the new league year, NFL Free Agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.

Draft Profiles

The Draft Network

Clemson running back Travis Etienne enters the NFL after a productive college career that resulted in him being the ACC’s all-time leading rusher. His burst and contact balance make him a big-play back that is capable of taking it the distance from any part of the field. While he’s an explosive back, Etienne is disciplined and doesn’t try to do too much and put his team in bad positions. He’s grown wonderfully as a receiver and is a nightmare matchup for linebackers in coverage. The primary area of concern for Etienne is inconsistent results in pass protection. His tape reveals too many instances where he is tardy to diagnose pressure schemes and lacks the technique needed to consistently execute blocks in pass protection. While his vision is sufficient, there are times when he can become too eager pressing the line of scrimmage where more patience and anticipation are needed to maximize his touches. Overall, the grips with Etienne’s game are minor and he has the upside to become one of the NFL’s most dangerous offensive weapons.

Ideal Role: Featured running back that gets plenty of chances to attack the edges and contribute as a receiver out of the backfield.

Scheme Fit: Etienne is a scheme-transcendent back.

Walter Football


  • Fast
  • Acceleration
  • Quick first-step to hit the hole
  • Second gear in the open field
  • Threat to rip off a long touchdown on any carry
  • Instinctive runner
  • Good vision
  • Anticipation
  • Compact build
  • Runs hard and physical for his size
  • Elusive; has moves in the open field
  • Cutting ability
  • Quick feet
  • Receiving skills
  • Improved route-runner
  • Catches with his hands
  • Good body lean
  • Runs behind pads
  • Bends at the knee
  • Decisive runner
  • Has a nose for the end zone


  • Fumble issues during the 2019 and 2020 season
  • Could struggle to create lots of yards after contact in the NFL
  • Won’t be an asset in goal-line or short-yardage situations
  • Will need development in blitz protection
  • Frame could be maxed out

Player Comparison: Giovani Bernard. Etienne reminds me of Bernard at North Carolina. Both are smaller, fast backs who are dangerous receivers and natural runners. Neither one has great size for the NFL, and both better being paired with big back. Bernard was a second-round pick, and Etienne could go in the same range during the 2021 NFL Draft and has a shot at being a pick in the back half of the first round.

Fan Nation


Height: 5’10”
Weight: 210 lbs.
Class: Senior
School: Clemson

Etienne’s college accomplishments are eye-popping, to say the least. He’s a two-time offensive ACC Player of the Year and a two-time ACC overall Player of the Year. He’s been first-team all ACC three times, and he’s the ACC career rushing leader. He also won a college championship in 2018, the year he was a First Team All-American.


Pitbull might call him “Mr. Worldwide” because he can effectively run east & west, just as well as he runs north & south.

Etienne possesses a rare blend of control, contact balance, acceleration, and explosiveness.

Etienne is rarely deterred upon initial contact from defenders who don’t execute adequate tackling mechanics (he runs through a lot of arm tackles).

His excellent athletic ability allows him to reach a second gear of acceleration and burst that makes secondary players look silly at times.

He’s a phenomenal, dual-threat athlete whose skill set transitions well to the NFL level. He has rare foot speed and does an excellent job finishing runs with an immense amount of physicality.

Breakdowns / Highlights

Game Film

Other Breakdowns